KONRAD (SHARON ANN) VS. KONRAD (KARLHEINZ MICHAEL)Annotate this Case
RENDERED: DECEMBER 5, 2008; 2:00 P.M.
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
Commonwealth Of Kentucky
Court of Appeals
SHARON ANN KONRAD
APPEAL AND CROSS-APPEAL FROM JEFFERSON FAMILY COURT
HONORABLE STEPHEN M. GEORGE, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 96-FC-007260
KARLHEINZ MICHAEL KONRAD
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BEFORE: LAMBERT, STUMBO AND THOMPSON, JUDGES.
THOMPSON, JUDGE: This is a post-dissolution of marriage action in which
Sharon Ann Konrad seeks an increase in the existing maintenance award, and
Karlheinz Michael Konrad (Karl) seeks to decrease or eliminate the maintenance
award. After the Jefferson Family Court denied both motions and awarded Sharon
$1,000 for attorney fees, Sharon appealed and Karl cross-appealed. Because we
agree with the family court that neither party established a substantial change of
circumstances to warrant a modification of the existing award, we affirm.
Likewise, we find no error in the amount of attorney’s fees awarded.
The parties married in 1969, and, at the time of their divorce in 1993,
had two minor children. During the marriage, Sharon was not employed outside
the home. Since 1976, Karl had been employed by Ford Motor Company and
earned a gross monthly income of $9,707.50 per month. The court found that both
children had extraordinary needs that justified a deviation from the child support
guidelines and Karl was ordered to pay $1,565 per month in child support. The
court found that Sharon was incapable of providing for her own reasonable needs
and awarded her $1,000 per month in maintenance until Sharon’s death or
During the interim between the divorce and her motion for an increase
in maintenance, Sharon did not seek employment until her youngest child was
emancipated and she no longer received child support. She has held only two
employment positions, both of which were temporary and of short duration. The
family court found that although Sharon suffers from health impediments, those
same conditions existed at the time of the divorce. She has amassed credit card
debt and depleted the equity in her residence, which the family court attributed to
Sharon’s inability to live within her means.
Karl retired from Ford on December 31, 2006. His retirement prior to
age sixty-two was the result of an employee restructuring plan at Ford and
involved an early retirement incentive package offered to thousands of similarly
situated employees. Following his retirement, Karl’s gross monthly income is
$6,459.22. Sharon is to receive $466.70 per month and, when Karl reaches sixtytwo years of age, her benefits will increase to $471.37.
Sharon argues that her maintenance award should be increased while
Karl contends that it should be decreased or eliminated. Both contentions are
analyzed pursuant to the same statute, KRS 403.250. That statute provides:
Except as otherwise provided in subsection (6) of KRS
403.180, the provisions of any decree respecting
maintenance may be modified only upon a showing of
changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as
to make the terms unconscionable. The provisions as to
property disposition may not be revoked or modified,
unless the court finds the existence of conditions that
justify the reopening of a judgment under the laws of this
Because it is the intent of the statute that maintenance awards remain stable, the
movant must demonstrate compelling evidence to support the requested
modification. McKenzie v. McKenzie, 502 S.W.2d 657 (Ky. 1973). “The
determination of questions regarding maintenance is a matter which has
traditionally been delegated to the sound and broad discretion of the trial court, and
an appellate court will not disturb the trial court absent an abuse of discretion.”
Barbarine v. Barbarine, 925 S.W.2d 831, 832 (Ky.App. 1996).
Sharon’s claim for an increased maintenance award is premised on the
increase in Karl’s income from the date of the divorce until his retirement. Prior to
his effective retirement date, he earned $11,900 per month from Ford. However,
Sharon cannot deny that since his retirement, Karl’s monthly income from Ford
has decreased to $6,459.22 per month. Moreover, her portion of the marital
pension benefit effective January 1, 2007, is $466.70.
Sharon suggests that had Karl not chosen early retirement, he could
afford an increase in maintenance. When considering the impact of retirement by
the payor spouse, the court is to consider and weigh the circumstances of the case
and determine if the advantage to the retiring spouse substantially outweighs the
disadvantage to the payee spouse. Id. at 833.
Karl’s retirement cannot be characterized as purely voluntary. It was
the result of an extensive early retirement package offered by Ford to its qualified
employees. As presumably did other employees, Karl accepted the incentive
package because of anticipated layoffs at Ford. Moreover, Sharon will reap the
benefit of receiving her marital share of the pension benefits.
We agree with the family court that there has not been a substantial
change in circumstances warranting an increase in the maintenance award.
Although prior to his retirement, Karl had an increase in his monthly income,
increases in income were necessarily foreseeable and anticipated at the time of the
decree. Unfortunately, Sharon’s financial situation has deteriorated after the
divorce, which we agree with the trial court, is attributable to her lack of
employment and high expenditures. Sharon’s physical ailments, while perhaps
debilitating, existed at the time of the decree and thus are not a change of
circumstances warranting an increase in the maintenance award.
For the same reasons we find no substantial change in circumstances
warranting an increase in maintenance, we affirm the family court’s denial of
Karl’s motion to decrease or eliminate the maintenance award. His decision to
accept early retirement is not alone sufficient to render the original award
unconscionable. Bickel v. Bickel, 95 S.W.3d 925 (Ky.App. 2002). Sharon is in no
better position to provide for her reasonable needs at this time than she was at the
time of the divorce and there is no evidence that Karl’s retirement benefits are
insufficient to meet his reasonable needs and his maintenance obligation.
Finally, we find no error in the family court’s decision to order Karl to
pay $1,000 to Sharon’s attorney. After considering the financial resources of both
parties, the court may order a party to pay a reasonable amount for attorney's fees.
KRS 403.220. When awarding attorney’s fees, the court is only required to find a
disparity in the financial resources of the parties. The amount of an award of
attorney’s fees is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Gentry v.
Gentry, 798 S.W.2d 928, 938 (Ky. 1990).
Sharon submitted documentation that her attorney’s fees were $4,736,
which included amounts expended to respond to the motion to decrease or
eliminate maintenance but also to pursue her motion to increase maintenance.
Under the circumstances, we cannot agree that the trial court abused its discretion
when it refused to award Sharon the entire amount of attorney’s fees requested.
Based on the foregoing, the order of the Jefferson Family Court is
BRIEF FOR APPELLANT/CROSSAPPELLEE:
BRIEF FOR APPELLEE/CROSSAPPELLANT:
William D. Tingley
B. Mark Mulloy